Aussie Television's Tectonic Shift

Lifestyle & Culture | June 15, 2009

I think the Aussie television landscape has undergone a massive change. The sticky, samey, cliched concrete that held together the tectonic plates beneath it for so many decades has finally crumbled and caused a shift. The volcano has erupted after years of gurgling promises and pitches for new formats.

Pretty much gone are the shows about gardening, travel, lifestyle, renovations and makeovers.

Better Homes & Gardens is hanging in there, but I guess if you keep winning Logies and you affiliate yourself with a best-selling magazine, you’ll be alright.

I think we are all Getawayed out, quite frankly, and Domestic Blitz gives us the shits.

Sure, HomeMADE has premiered this year, but let’s remember, this is Channel Nine and they are always late to the party. Besides, the show is awful and its supposed design guru host, the unfortunately named David Heimann, is even awfuler. Nine is already playing shuffle with its timeslot.

Instead, the volcano of TV newness has spewed forth a smorgasbord of tasty lava treats: Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation, Sunday Night, Master Chef Australia, Recruits, Mad Men and Random Acts of Kindness.

Shaun Micallef, thank god you’re here, presenting this very entertaining show. Top mix of generational ambassadors, hit and miss guests, thought-provoking games and just the right amount of tacky cheese to make it laughable.

Isn’t Master Chef a revelation? I love it, but then again, I am so obsessed with cooking shows I will even sit through that messy twit Iain Hewitson’s show and have been known to watch Delia Smith on very regular occasions.

Who in their right mind would have thought that Master Chef, a reality show with ordinary face-for-radio hosts that airs six nights a week, would pull close to two million viewers at a time?

Surely that annoying little gelfling George Calombaris would have people switching off faster than you can say "what is the hero of this dish", yeah?

Seven’s new current affairs offering Sunday Night intrigues me. It’s a newish format and has hit the headlines with some supposedly hard news breaks. But I will never like Mike Munro, especially after this week’s prostate exam exercise in extreme inappropriateness, and Ross Coulthart needs to suspend a bit of ego to avoid placing himself at the centre of every story.

Chris Bath is good, but better than this and is not having her potential exploited. Jamie Durie and Monique Wright do not add credibility, they remove it, and the show needs to be cautioned against leading viewers up a very big garden path with their over-hyped promos. Daniel Morcombe anyone?

But this brings me to an interesting point, hammered home by the fascinating Ramsay versus Grimshaw title fight of recent weeks.

After decades of sanitised, over-revised, rehashed, rehearsed and overly scripted deliveries from our prominent journos, we have now returned to the age of the personality presenter.

That’s right, our well-known reporters and program hosts are finally reversing what was a very slippery slide into a land of robots reading autocues.

I know I have criticised Ross Coulthart and Mike Munro for their look-at-me editorialising in this very blog, but if they had something worthwhile to say, I would be applauding them as loudly as I am Miss Grimshaw. If they were likeable, respectable and intelligent, I would lend them my ear.

At last, a genuine issue that really did divide a community, and both Gordon and Tracy took decent stands. Sure it descended into a steaming tabloid pile of poo where issues like sexuality, honesty, fairness, the role of the media and celebrity clouded the real one of plain rudeness and a joke too far...but a tabloid pile of poo is where it all started in the first place.

And, my, it was good for ratings. Ramsay will be kicking himself that he didn’t have a new book on the market at the time.

I reckon Tracy, Kerry O’Brien, Tony Jones, George Negus et al should be given weekly editorial slots on their shows where they just get on air for three minutes of uncensored, unbridled opinion-making. Kind of like Hughesy Loses It, but with a refined journalistic edge.

Honourable mentions must go to Recruits – a step backward in the evolutionary process to a time when reality ruled, but nonetheless a gritty, moving show full of compelling characters. And if you have not seen Mad Men yet (SBS, 8.30pm Thursdays), watch it, watch it, watch it! It is one of the smartest, most skillfully layered productions you will ever have the privilege of witnessing; plus it has a script that’ll make you swoon.

Finally, Random Acts of Kindness. Such a lovely show, with such an regrettable acronym, but one that I would use were I to meet host Karl Stefanovic in the street: as in, "Ra(c)k off Karl, you are the most annoying Aussie Tom Cruise-type person devoid of personality!"

God, he hurts this show. That poor bugger with the horses on this week’s was in shock, a country bloke brought to tears who needed some support from a fellow human being – a hug, maybe. Instead, Karl gave him a corkie to the bicep with an overzealous arm slap in a vain attempt to act like a real country man. Uggh.

Thankfully, he’s not the only "talent" on this show, joined by the jocular Scott Cam and Simmone Jade Mackinnon, a strange addition Nine probably couldn’t leave hanging when McLeod’s Daughters died.

The time is right for this show. We’re all freaking out about money, confidence is low and we’re using phrases like "back to basics" more. I’m not saying this show is not predictable or somewhat confusing. Seriously, how much stuff does each person need to get?? Yes, they deserve it and more, but the show is structured like an old Demtel ad..."but wait, there’s more" and that’s not so much kind as just plain random. However, a few feel-good tears are necessary in times like these.


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About Rebecca Marshall

I have been a journalist in regional Australia for about 14 years, first in South Australia (television) and now on Queensland's Sunshine Coast (newspapers).
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